IDTechEx’s recent market research report on drones and their associated technologies predicts the drone market to be over $22-billion by 2041.

The report “Drone Market and Industries 2021-2041” covers the key areas of the drone environment, such as the hardware, software and sensors which are critical to drone use cases and adoption.

Drones have, once again, opened up the possibility of experimenting with the aerodynamic design of flying objects, according to the report. The aircraft industry itself spent decades experimenting with the design of aircraft, both in civilian and military applications. Indeed, numerous technologies failed and some succeeded before the outlines of the general dominant designs emerged.

Drones have also represented an opportunity for novel designs: they are light-weight, battery-powered, and electrically-propelled. All these components can be arranged in many new novel ways, which in the past few years led to an explosion of designs.

Different drones have different applications. Rotary drones are typically more efficient designs for smaller drone sizes. This is due to their design. With four fixed-pitch props, there are few moving parts and this reduces the cost of the drone. However, this design does not scale up very well.

Quadcopters require a stabilisation for each of their motors in order to fly. In order for the drone to stay stable in the air, it needs to individually adjust the thrust in each of its props. As a quadcopter requires its motors to speed up or slow down to adjust the thrust, there needs to be a built-in time delay to how fast the drone can react, as it takes time to change the speed of the prop due to its inertia.

So scaling the drone up to a larger size does not work, because the larger the propeller, the more energy it takes to change its speed. This either needs a drastic oversize of each motor, which would increase the weight, or have a slow dynamic response, which would impact handling.

As a result of this, fixed wing drones are typically used for longer distances, where less dynamic handling is required. Use cases include surveying or mapping, where the drone can follow a fixed path and map a large area whilst remaining in the VLOS of the drone pilot.

With different designs of drones, different use cases are more suited to them.